LONDON -- Three quick thoughts after Alize Cornet’s stunning upset of Serena Williams in the third round of Wimbledon today:
1. At the French Open, the top two seeds didn’t survive the second round. At Wimbledon, it only took three rounds. Li Na of China lost yesterday to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. But that was just the warmup. In the biggest upset the tournament (year?), France’s Alize Cornet took down Serena Williams, the five time champion 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 this afternoon on No. 1 Court.
More remarkable than the result is the way in which it went down. Serena won the first set amid rain delays and looked to be well on her way to reaching the fourth round at yet another Grand Slam. Not only did her strokes betray her, but also her nerves did. She was down 5-0 in the second set before winning a game. In the third set -- visibly upset and tentative, and leaking tears of frustration -- Cornet outfought her.
2. Credit Cornet, the French veteran, with perhaps the biggest win over career. She is known for her on-court drama, but provided a different variety today. The personification of plucky, she beat Serena earlier this year in Dubai. (And afterwards she had a gem of quote when asked what was going through her head. She responded, “Nothing for once.”)
Clearly bolstered by that win, she played uninhibited and creative tennis while Serena disintegrated. Serving at 5-4, she gathered herself and held at love.The question now becomes can she build on this? She has never been beyond the fourth round of a major; she now has a chance, facing Eugenie Bouchard next.
3. Serena has remarkable bounce-back powers, which she has shown multiple times throughout her career. But this is an awfully significant plummet. Serena has failed to make it past the fourth round of all three Grand Slams so far this year. The stats sheet told a large part of the story today: Serena served poorly and made scads of errors, especially as the match wore on. What it did not show was her surprisingly defeatist attitude and absence of fight.
After losing to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open, she remarked that she was never more motivated to win every single match. One wonders how she’ll be inspired after today's disappointment. At age 32, she was supposed to cement her status as an all-timer this year. Instead, the U.S. Open represents a chance to salvage her most disappointing season.